An Enforcement Directorate (ED) lawyer was on Thursday rebuked for asking separatist Shabir Shah to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai” during hearing of a money laundering case before a Delhi court. Additional Sessions Judge Siddhartha Sharma reminded Rajiv Awasthi that the courtroom “was not a TV studio”. He asked him to maintain decorum and argue the case on its merits.
“If he believes in the Constitution, then ask him (Shah) to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’,” Awasthi told defence lawyers M S Khan and Ravi Qazi. He accused Shah of amassing crores to “fund terror”. The defense objected and insisted that Shah is a political prisoner deprived of his constitutional rights. The court allowed the ED’s plea seeking extension of Shah’s custody by six days. Awasthi argued that it was necessary to ascertain Shah’s role in “anti-national activities” and “terror funding” through hawala.
The ED told the court that Shah was allegedly in contact with terrorists in Pakistan and received money several times through hawala for “disrupting peace”. “We are under process of receiving several mails and we need to scrutinise them. …we have to confront Shah with his associates as he is receiving crores of donations in his hotel’s account.” Awasthi cited Shah’s statement that he has not been filing Income Tax returns for donations received in cash. Khan alleged that the ED was compelling Shah, who has been in custody since July 25, to give statements.
The ED had registered the case against Shah following the arrest of one Aslam Wani in 2005. Wani, who was arrested allegedly along with a pistol and Rs 62.9 lakh cash, had “confessed” that he was working as Shah’s “courier”. He had reportedly said that he had collected money from operators in Delhi and was supposed to deliver 52.96 lakh to Shah.
In 2010, a local court convicted Wani under the Arms Act but dismissed charges against him of raising funds for terror activities saying that they “were not proved”. The defence cited the dismissal of the charges, but the court said that the ED can still investigate the charges against Shah. It said that the ED has based its case against Shah on wrong premise, citing Wani’s acquittal on charges of funding terror.